Chichester Cathedral to welcome girl choristers for the first time

For the first time in its centuries-long history, Chichester Cathedral is inviting girls to audition for places in its world-renowned choir.

Monday, 6th December 2021, 10:14 am
Updated Monday, 6th December 2021, 10:16 am
Charles Harrison

From the start of the next academic year in September 2022, girls as well as boys will be able to audition for places in the Cathedral Choir.

Choristers attend the Prebendal School, a co-ed, independent prep school immediately adjacent to the Cathedral, and receive a scholarship towards their school fees. Choristers spend about 18 hours each week rehearsing and singing services, as well studying two instruments and following a full school curriculum of academic work, sport and drama.

Charles Harrison, Organist & Master of the Choristers, said: “We are delighted now to offer the chorister experience to girls as well as boys. Having one team of choristers singing seven services each week is a wonderful, immersive training for the children, and it plays to the high musical standards that we aspire to. Rather than running two choirs, we will continue with one, inviting girls and boys to work side by side on equal terms.”

The musical and academic education offered by the Cathedral and The Prebendal School is a springboard for future success. Many choristers go on to win scholarships at prestigious secondary schools, where their choral training, discipline and team skills are highly valued. Recently, two Chichester choristers have won the BBC Chorister of the Year competition, while many others have secured sought-after places at top universities and music schools.

New chorister recruits, or probationers, now to include girls, are first given a grounding in vocal technique, sight singing and the structure of services. They then progress to play a full part in the life of the choir which includes making recordings, broadcasts on local and national radio and European tours.

“Probationers usually join in academic years three or four, but vacancies occasionally arise in other year groups. The next open day will take place on Saturday, March 5 2022. Further details will be posted on the Cathedral website.”

The Dean of Chichester, The Very Reverend Stephen Waine, said: “Music lies at the heart of the spiritual life of Chichester Cathedral and we remain committed to the ongoing provision of financial, educational and pastoral support for our choristers giving them a rare musical, educational and Christian experience that will remain with them throughout their lives. We are delighted that this opportunity will now be available to girls as well as boys, broadening participation in the great tradition of cathedral choirs.”

Louise Salmond-Smith, head of The Prebendal School, said: “This is a marvellous development for the choir, and I am overjoyed that girls will be able to take advantage of the immeasurable musical and non-musical benefits that arise from being part of such a prestigious ensemble. The Cathedral Choir will, in turn, benefit from being able to recruit Choristers of the very highest calibre regardless of gender. At The Prebendal School we work exceedingly hard to promote equal opportunities to all of our pupils, and I could not be more delighted by this significant and most welcome change.”

The Cathedral provides a minimum 25% scholarship for all choristers, with further support available on a means-tested basis.